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March 2011 - Posts - Owd Fred's Blog

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March 2011 - Posts

The two hundred day winter


I was brought up to cater for a two hundred day winters, and rarely did the cows go out until the third week of April. Hay with kale was fed up to the turn of the year then on to hay and stored mangols for the rest of the winter, corn was fed according to the yields


This was the hub of the dairy farming just after the war, a new flat roofed churn dairy was built along with its churn stand seen in the foreground behind it is the engine shed where at one time the open crank oil engine powered all the barn machinery.  It also housed the coal /coke boiler for sterilizing the dairy utensils. The higher loft section is where the barn drive shaft went to drive the cake crusher, mangol pulper, chaff cutter, and roller mill to crush the oats.
The sheds to the left were the cow sheds and a similar run of stalls ran to the right as well, but here these buildings stand empty and redundant having had a few hundred years of use. There seems to be four or five additions to these buildings over the years the first being built with very narrow bricks.


Silage took over from hay in the 1960's it being cut direct with a flail harvester loaded green without wilting, this was long stemmed and only bruised and difficult to consolidate, often getting over heated in the clamp. During the early years of clamping molasses was added with water can, then all sorts of powders came in with wild claims as to how they would help the fermentation, but often as not in good weather conditions it was better not to add anything.

As the years have progressed spring turn out has got earlier by around three weeks, and the autumn housing later into November bringing it nearer to a one hundred and seventy day winter   


Time is measured in portions

Time goes by for ever, to history that we can't reset,  
Minuets made up of seconds, sixty seconds every minuet,
And hours are made up of minuets, sixty minuets show,
Days made up of hours, twenty four in a row,
Week made up of seven days Monday to Sunday peaks,
A month is one of twelve, in which it has four weeks,
Spring summer autumn winter, winter has the snow,
A year it follows the seasons, four seasons in a row,
A decade that is ten years, for knowledge to acquire,
A score of years is twenty, at three score five retire,
A century seems a long time, for humans to cavort,
Time is measured in portions, sometimes long or short,
A lifetimes usually shorter, but it varies quite a lot,
Time on earth it tests you, before you hit your plot.



By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son that thinks he is wrong.
Charles Wadsworth


Potatoes planted a foot apart - was not twelve inches

On the up side it meant that three men could plant more potatoes than six people with different size feet.

Potatoes',   Going on from what Matthew Naylor wrote about potatoes, in one of his blogs,  the earliest I remember at home was of the ground being ridged in shallow ridges and for the muck to be spread along and potatoes dropped in the bottom and the ridges split.

He was talking about how his dad always planted them a foot apart, and that was what I recalled, the trouble was not everyone's foot was the same length, some of the women working had size five or six boots right up to some men with size twelve boots, and that's a big difference. You see taters were carried in an apron sack tied round your waist and the bottom two corners had a loop of cord tied to them and was strung up round your neck, this way you could carry half a hundred weight.

Each step you took you dropped a spud against your toe, and then step forwards with your heel against the one just dropped and so on. So as you see the plant population varied quite widely from row to row depending on what big footed bloke had planted and another with smaller feet,  so overall there could easily be a rough average of a foot apart (in the meaning twelve inches)

When we got onto a tractor ridge plough, we had a potato planter mounted onto it; this consisted of two hoppers for the seed and two seats hanging out the back. Behind one outside furrow was a measuring wheel with a bell on it, to indicate when to drop a spud. It could be varied as to what spacing you required, but it all came down to planting at a foot apart.

The seed was carefully tipped into the hoppers on the headlands, knocking off some sprouted tubers, then as they were hand dropped at every ping of the bell down a narrow spout some more sprouts were knocked off, the larger tater took longer to rumble down the spout and the smaller ones shot down quickly, so again the distance apart varied, then a tuft of muck or grass blocked the chute and there would be a dozen taters missed. Stop the machine, empty the spout, and go back and plant them in the ridge where it was thought they should have been.

Another drawback was the incessant ringing of the bell particularly if your seat was right over it, and the planter, while it save walking and carrying the seed down the ridges it did nothing to improve accuracy the spacing's. On the up side it meant that three men could plant more potatoes than six people with different size feet. So planting a foot apart started to become nearer to the twelve inches that was aimed for.


The man who nothing to boast of but his illustrious ancestry is like a potato - the best part is underground.
Thomas Overbury  (1581 - 1613)

Mother Reared her Chickens, late in the 1940’s

Mother bought her day old chickens from a hatchery, ready sexed so she knew that they would be all pullets, though just the occasional a few would turn out cockerels. In her order for two hundred they seemed to send half a dozen extra, so it could be they just chucked in a few cock chickens just for the hell of it, after all they had to get rid of them some how, and being a laying hybrid, they were not much good for fattening.

The hatchery would notify us what time they would arrive at our local train station for us to pick them up as promptly as possible. The station master and porters would take the boxes off the train (all steam trains back then) and if it were a cold day stand them by the coke stove in the waiting room, thinking they were doing us a favour, but all it did was to sweat them up then they would get a chill when put in the brooder.

The brooder was a mushroom shaped with a curtain round the edge and a cardboard ring outside that to retain the chicken in for the first few days. This was heated with a paraffin lamp down in the centre leg and a thermometer stuck down a hole into the area occupied by the chickens.


Mother had a Brooder

Mother had a brooder, for her chickens to rear,
Ordered from the hatchery, had them twice a year,
Two hundred chicks day old, they despatched by rail,
Pick them up at the local station, platform they prevail.

Got to be there to meet the train, in four boxes norm,
If ya late station master, stand them by his stove too warm,
Sweats them up then chills them, tho he means no harm,
As day old need a constant warmth, the brooder will conform.

They start off on news paper, with chicken crumbs to peck,
And a jam jar water fountain, clean up every speck,
Then to push them under brooder, paraffin lamp to heat,
Let them out every hour and half, for them more to eat.

After a day or two they, go in and out them selves,
Tail feathers start to grow, into food hoppers delves,
It's a little curtain they go through, for them warm to keep,
Till they have all their feathers, then onto perches sleep.

Open the hatch to let them out, first time hour afore dark,
Get then used to where they live, in and out of the ark,
Soon they grow and forage around, all about the farm yard,
Laying in the nest boxes, some lay away, to find them's hard.

In autumn the pens were taken up, onto field wheat stubble,
Pick up all the grain that shead,  move the pens no trouble,
Field pens with little cast wheels, slatted floors the lot,
No cleaning out just move the pen, three times a week new plot.

Month or six weeks then inside, deep litter pen now ready,
Now the days are shorter, the eggs flagging off to steady,
New idea, put on a light, keep them wake much longer,
Time switch bought for this job, keep up the profits stronger.

Countryman (Owd Fred)

This was the first time we had ever had a time switch, and the very up to date thinking was to extend the day for the laying hens, to increase egg production. Never been heard of before and how far in front of others in the village were we, they could not understand why our hen pen lights were on right up to midnight.


Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.
Aesop (620-560 BC)

Farm Dispersal Sales

Job to know where to start, and find things long forgotten,
Things we used like brushing hooks, n' pitch forks stale gone rotten,

At one time there used to be quite a few dispersal sales on the run up to March 25th when tenancies would be timed to change or end in retirement. Now there is only the odd one locally attracting a lot of interest from a wide area, these are timed to take place on a Saturdays when the maximum number of folk are able to attend. They are a social occasions with not every one going just to purchase, more often its an opportunity to have a look round the farm and building that otherwise you would not be able to do, (it's called being nosy), everyone in a cheerful and generally happy mood.

The prices attained at these sales are generally very good for the seller and sometimes   neighbouring farms are allowed to enter their surplus items which bulk up the sale attracting even more folk.

It's a lot of work in the run up to sale date, items being dragged out of the back of sheds and buildings that have not seen the light of day in a good many years, it is these sort of things that attract collectors and enthusiasts of every kind.

During the sale when bidding gets brisk, there  is banter as well as bidding with the price going beyond what the item was originally valued at,  two bidders hanging on trying to out bid each other it all to the good of the out going farmer, and make for a cheerful and happy atmosphere.

Part used and pre-warn or worn out right down to scrap iron, everything goes, the rusty seized up, the rotten with woodworm, the bent and twisted, everything has to go


The Farm Sale

The years have come the years have gone, its time to sell the lot,
And now I've got to organize, the sale of all I've got,
To pull it out the sheds and then, n' lay it out in rows,
For all and everyone who comes, to have a dam good nose.

The tools and all machinery, bought it years ago,
Ploughed the land and worked it, encouraged crops to grow,
Harrowed all the grass in spring, soon as the Daff's appear,
Cattle would be turned out, and sold that big fat steer.

Job to know where to start, and find things long forgotten,
Things we used like brushing hooks, n' pitch forks stale gone rotten,
Shovels spades and muck forks, all standing where last used,
Some I've had a long time, and some they were abused.

Workshop that's a nightmare, the scrap ruck will increase,
Wading through the junk to find, that lost now found tailpiece 
All the things you save as spares, but things move on apace,
Out dated now and far too small, with newer one replaced.

The tractor that's seen better days, reliable it has been,
Well used and got a loader on, could do with a dam good clean,
Worked it hard all day long, every day of the year,
Last day now it has arrived, and to the field must steer.

A second one it's older still, with a draughty cab,
Tyres worn and torn about, n' the paints a little drab.
Steering wobbles brakes no good, useful to have about,
Its winter when it wonner start, I have a dam good shout.

Be sorry to see an empty yard, and all the cleaned out sheds,
The damp old house abandoned, and empty old farmstead,
Silence now for few a weeks, until new folk move in,
Then once again start from new, new livestock make a din.

Countryman (Owd Fred)


If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millianaires.
Abigail Van Buren (1918) 

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